well, it was the best race ever so far. the plan is that they just keep getting better.
race number 11 was the indiana state road race championships. this was the same race that got rained out and cancelled about a month ago. i actually wasn't going to race this weekend & had gotten a refund; but then on second thought, figured i needed all the race experience i can get, so i re-signed up. every race is training and experience and i needed more.
my teammate was out of this one on account of her broken collarbone and concussion from last weekend & my other teammate is more of a mountain bike racer than road racer; so i was on my own. but in the coolest show of support, the girls came up with me - we made a girls' road trip out of the whole thing & it was a blast.
i had a plan going into this race - seeing as i had no teammates with me and knew that there were very few category 4 riders registered (it was a women's open race - all categories / state championship), my plan was to hide and ride. stay protected. stay invisible.
i had a good feeling going into this race (i.e: i was not all jacked up and anxious). i felt good and strong and totally ready. i had my head screwed on and i love it when my head is screwed on right. everything just falls into place. it was a 42 mile race - 4 laps of the course. the first lap was unbelievably cool. i was with the pack and for the first time ever, was able to - or, more accurately, had the confidence to move around in the pack. i did some short pulls on the front, i was gauging where the wind was coming from & positioning myself in the pack to stay protected from it. i had the confidence to steal wheels from girls who were not hanging on closely enough to a wheel, and i had the confidence to move around in the pack and to pull into tight spaces where a gap had been made. i was doing things that would have terrified me just a few races ago. i just kept thinking "i have the legs, i feel strong" and i am telling you - this is infinitely better than the "you are a pussy, just hang it up" mantra i had going for me some days.
soon into the second lap, i was towards the back and was noticing that something was going to happen - some of the girls just looked all squirrelly. i wanted to move up so i could be closer if there was a breakaway - there were two girls in front of me (they were teammates) and it took me a little too long to figure out what they were trying to do; but they were trying to block me -oh. no - this aggression will not stand. i didn't have much room and just one race ago would have been too scared to pass, but i had a new found confidence and passed them - then kicked it in to chase the group & looked back, figuring they would be right on my wheel (i assumed that was their plan). but i shelled them & never saw them again! i did catch the group & settled in for a bit, but lost them again when i took a really simple turn very badly - i shot way out just as the group jacked it up and sped ahead. now i was time-trialing for about 2/3rds of a lap.
while i was time trialing, i passed about 3 dudes off the back of the race that left 5 minutes before us. and i know its so awful to get passed by someone in the race behind you cause i have been there and i am sure will be there many more times. but still. it feels sweet to pass the dudes off the back of the race in front of you.
anyhow - i finally catch one girl and as i come up to her say "nice day for a time trial, huh?" she is so not amused and looks exhausted. (this should have been a hint for me - note to self for next race: keep going. do not ask exhausted looking girls if they want to work with you to help catch group. they are too tired. they will not work). but. i am new at this and i don't know this yet. so i say, do you want to work together to catch group? well duh. she says yeah. and i proceed to pull her tired ass for the next 2 laps. well, that is not really fair to say - she did totally take nano-second pulls. we caught another girl who was equally tired and i think only too happy to share the work. she shared the work way more than nano-second pull girl - but mostly? mostly i blew myself up. only i didn't know at the time that i was blowing myself up. i still felt crazy great and strong. but now i know in the next race i can be more vocal and tell girls like nano-second pull girl to work more. or, if they are just not working, i need to get rid of them. my husband later told me that the two of us stronger girls should have just ridden away and left the girl who was not contributing. cause in the end - both those girls i was working with beat me.
around mile 35, the 93 degree heat, and the fact that i had been working my ass off for 25 miles hit me and my legs like a ton of bricks. my legs were done. my body was done. i watched the two girls just slowly pull away. i just had to keep it up for 7 more miles and make sure no one behind me caught me. nobody did catch me - in fact, i put 5 minutes on the girl who finished behind me and even more time on the rest of the (mostly younger!) pack that slowly straggled in. and the fact that for once, there was a pack of girls BEHIND me that straggled in was huge. for the first time, i was not one of them. i watched them straggle in from the air conditioned comfort of a friends car that i practically fell into upon turning off the finish into the parking lot. i didn't really know how much the heat had affected me & i was not feeling well - but five minutes in the air conditioning made everything feel a bit better. and hearing what my finishing place was what really made it all feel better.
despite the fact that i fell apart in the last 7 miles - this was without a doubt my best race ever. it all came together. everything clicked. i had a confidence that i had never had before on the bike or in a race; and for 35 miles i had the legs. maybe if it hadn't been 93 degrees and i hadn't worked so much on the last two laps the outcome would have been even better - but honestly, i am over the moon about the fact that i took sixth place at the indiana state road race championships!
it was a very good day.